Music Reviews

By Ian Worpole, Contributor
June / July 2008

Straight from the Bottle
Anyone who wants to hear what a great seisiún sounds like in full throttle, with a glorious mix of live tunes and songs from virtuoso performers all: pick up the latest Jameson’s Revenge CD, Straight from the Bottle, at: www.cdbaby/cd/jamesonsrevenge.com.

Keep it Simple
Van Morrison has a new CD of all original songs, Keep It Simple — what is left to say about The Man? I’ve certainly written plenty, as a thirty-plus-years hero of mine, and this new one of course both delights and infuriates. The latter-day mix of angst, anger and love he has made his own are all here, set against more than usually spare but sonic arrangements, hence the title, all sung with a casual phrasing and timing most singers spend their lives trying to achieve. It’s a mixed bag, even for die-hard fans, but you can’t help but love it!

Ships in the Forest
Karan Casey has just released her first CD on the Compass Records label, Ships in the Forest, and as always, her rich, honeyed voice is set against the finest of traditional Irish instrumentation, including husband Niall Vallely on concertina and Kris Drever on guitar. Much like her English counterpart June Tabor, Karan is drawn to the dark side of traditional music — songs of futile wars, lost loves, and okay, found loves too. A deeply melancholic, haunting set, it includes the great Joni Mitchell’s “Fiddle and the Drum” and Karan’s original settings to classics such as “I Once Loved a Lass.” Karan, as she herself notes, has balanced the joy of raising her two small children with her ongoing musical career, and with this CD remains Ireland’s leading chanteuse.

The Story So Far
Also on the Compass label, Lúnasa has released a ten-year retrospective, The Story So Far. If you don’t have all their CDs, here is an essential compilation put together by founding member Trevor Hutchinson. Famous for being a tour-de-force all-instrumental group, the only thing more I could wish for is that each set be introduced by the irrepressible Kevin Crawford. I caught the band in New York City a few months ago on a double bill with Dervish, and more recently Kevin on tour with Donal Clancy and Cillian Vallely, and his craic between sets is a joy to hear (the only other that comes close is in fact Cathie Jordan of Dervish, so it was a rare night at Connolly’s). So how’s about a live one, boys? You’re the greatest.
And last but not least, a good friend and fellow band member Jude Roberts has a CD, Stained Glass Afterglow, a set of original Irish and American songs. All are wonderful glowing tales of love and legend sung in a pure lilting voice with mostly acoustic backing. One song in particular, “Amanda McRae,” should be covered by any number of Irish singers, and is worth the price of the CD alone. For more info: www.myspace.com/heyjuderoberts.

So that’s it for now — keep buying the good stuff — these artists need you! – I.W.

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